LE MANS, France: Toyota, seeking their maiden success, and 17-time winners Porsche were battling for Le Mans 24 Hour glory on Sunday (Monday in Manila), with only seconds splitting the teams as the race entered the closing stages.
As night gave way to day at the fabled Sarthe circuit Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi’s Toyota TS050 was out in front by around half a minute from its sister car with Briton Mike Conway at the wheel.
Pole sitter’ Neel Jani’s Porsche was placed third, a handful of seconds behind, with Porsche’s second car driven by Mark Webber having lost over an hour overnight with engine problems.
The 84th edition of the grueling endurance event watched by over 200,000 car buffs will finish at 1500 local time (1300GMT), the winner having covered a similar distance to a round trip from Le Mans to Moscow.
The 2016 race has been dogged by bad weather.
Flagged off by Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt at 1500 on Saturday, the first seven laps took place behind the safety car as torrential rain lashed the track and the 60 cars on the grid.
The drenched crowd was kept on their toes by over 30 changes of lead during the night and four safety car appearances.
While giant Japanese manufacturer Nissan are dreaming of their first ever Le Mans success in the race Webber calls “the beast” Porsche are aiming to secure an 18th victory and back to back wins after last year’s victory ended a 17-year drought.
During the Stuttgart manufacturers’ famine their fellow German car giants Audi ruled Le Mans, with 13 wins.
But a 14th victory looks unlikely after around 300 laps with the Audi driven by Loic Duval lagging behind in fourth, two laps adrift with six hours to go and the second Audi in fifth, 12 laps behind.